AIHEC Celebrates Birthday at ConferenceAug 15th, 2003 | By tcj | Category: 15-1: Indigenizing Our Future, Tribal College News
“There once was a time when we were laughed at. When you went to mainstream institutions, you were never told of the accomplishments of your people. There was a time when we wanted to be anything but Indian,” said Ron McNeil in his keynote address at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) annual conference in Fargo, ND, last April. (McNeil, the president of Sitting Bull College, subsequently changed his name to Ron His Horse is Thunder.)
The organization of tribal colleges and universities celebrated its 30th birthday at the conference. Six tribal colleges formed AIHEC in 1973, and now the organization has 35 members. (See TCJ, Vol. 14, N.2.)
Speaking to the dozens of students in the audience, he said, “There once was a time when we learned everything from our parents, grandparents, and our community. This is no longer possible. Yesterday a bachelor’s degree was enough. Today you must achieve a masters and a doctorate.”
“We are changing the complexion of Indian education,” His Horse is Thunder said. Speaking of his own tribal college in Fort Yates, ND, he said that the majority of his faculty and staff are American Indian people who graduated from that college. “The future is yours,” he concluded.
As with previous conferences, the 22nd annual AIHEC conference focused upon students, who competed in science, speech, business, website technology, liberal arts, bowling, pool, and traditional hand games.
The hosts of this year’s conference, the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges, produced a slide show to mark the anniversary, featuring people behind the tribal college movement and accompanied by music of the 1970s and 1980s. About 1,400 people, mostly from tribal colleges, attended the conference. About 30 of the 35 tribal colleges sent students and faculty to the conference; students from 10 other colleges in North Dakota and Minnesota also attended, according to an article in reznet (reznetnews.org).